CHICHESTER CINEMA AT NEW PARK – BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Our patrons’ and supporters’ experience of the cinema centres around the excellent programme of films and educational sessions we run. But there is another side to the whole operation that is mostly invisible to the general audience, that of the Trustees.
Chichester Cinema at New Park (CCNP) is a registered charity, and, like all charities, is overseen by a Board of Trustees. They are all volunteers who help to govern CCNP’s aims, policies and procedures so that the cinema is run efficiently, fairly, responsibly and legally. The Trustees come with a wealth of expertise, skills and experience via a diverse careers and workplaces including commercial cinema and business operations; finance; education; the law; journalism; public relations and voluntary work.
Currently there are seven Trustees whose Chair is David Brown. They work with Walter Francisco, the General Manager, Roger Gibson, the cinema’s founder and President and Carol Godsmark, the cinema’s Press and Marketing Officer.
The Board has three main steering groups to help focus and monitor the main areas of operation: ‘People, Governance and Finance, Education and Strategic Development. Each group meets between Board meetings to discuss issues, plans and ongoing developments, and refers these to the Board for information, discussion and final decisions.
Trustees work with full and part-time staff in developing the cinema’s vision and purposeful direction via its film programming and professional operation; its physical upkeep and relationship with other bodies; especially the New Park Community Centre which rents spaces to the cinema.
David Brown expands: We look to enhance and protect the charity’s reputation and act as active ambassadors. We also need to stay up to date and maintain a good mix of skills and we’re always looking for people who can bring specific expertise. We all have a great love for this cinema, its independence and what it has achieved over forty years for the community and further afield. Come and talk to us if you have in interest in joining the board.’
Please email Debbie Ford, Company Secretary and Trustee. firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Vance, past Chair, recalls the earliest of cinema days:
I first got to know Roger by accident, or was it serendipity – when he ran a WEA film study course in Film Noir at the Chichester College of Technology. You bought a season ticket and went to every film in those days. Later another studio was used and another night. Roger was always looking to move forward. I joined the committee as their treasurer when it was at the college. The committee meetings were held at Roger’s House where he sat surrounded by film information which he was cutting and pasting to make the brochure on an A2 sheet.
I became chairman when the operation moved to the New Park Centre. I remember that the plastic stacking chairs had to be put out on a stepped ramp every night and tidied up at the end so that the play group could use the room in the morning. The ramp had also to be pushed back; it didn’t always go smoothly! We were showing films on a 16mm projector at that time. It was decided that we needed to expand the range of films, and, at great expense, for us, we upgraded to a 35 mm projector and built a projection room. Sadly, the projector was a Heath Robinson affair and caused us numerous problems.
Our trainee projectionist Ross coped with all the problems admirably and was able to master the splicing and un-splicing of the film which he had to do in the afternoon prior to the evening showing. Ross became a very competent projectionist and the last we heard about him is that he travels the world instructing on IMAX.
During my time as Chairman we changed the name from the Chichester College Film Society to Chichester City Film Society. We also had a wine tasting courtesy of the Australian commission. The film was Travelling North (1987) starring Leo McKern. I remember it was my first taste of Australian wine and they brought it in plastic containers!
The society moved on and needed to get involved in paying VAT and other serious issues due to it enlarging presence. I felt my very enjoyable time had come to the end and passed on the Chair to Eva French.
Pat Bowman – past Cinema Publicity Officer
It was exactly as I expected when I joined the cinema 30 years ago. There was the shabby hall poorly lit, hard plastic chairs, occasional projection problems and often sparse audiences. No-one could have dreamed that it would grow to what we have today. No-one? Not quite. One did – Roger Gibson, of course. Soon I was caught up in his vision, his single mindedness and tenacity. I pitched in to help in a variety of roles from the menial to developmental. Probably my best contribution was to cajole a bemused Charities Commission Official to grant us Charity status. I had to drive to Barnstaple to confront him!
Now we are more than just a flourishing independent Cinema. We are recognised as a strong part of the local cultural scene. We have an admirable educational programme and collaborate with other organisations, remarkable, considering how much we rely on voluntary help.
We have come a long way but there is plenty of growth to come yet Exactly what, I don’t know. Better ask Roger.
Growing Pains: Roger Harrison, past cinema vice-chair recalls ‘stuff' that makes some people lose the will to live’
Most expanding organisations reach a sort of ‘tipping point’ where enthusiastic amateurism (in the most positive sense) need the kind of support that can come from a more professional and systematic approach: a long-term strategy, a business plan, policies; job descriptions; performance reviews; fundraising and so on. When I joined the cinema as Vice Chairman in 2002, Chairman Jonathan Ingrams and I set about doing just that – the kind of stuff in fact that makes some people lose the will to live but which keeps me out of the pub. Looking back now, I’m struck by the fact that you met much the same people at each endless meeting. The earnest discussions could go on into the night: about, say, the balance to be struck between the more commercial “Chichester” films and ‘arty’ flicks with challenging content – as if ‘quality’ only came with sub-titles. Or seating. Or car parking. Or heating, an issue that was miraculously cured every May but for only about five months.
I recall Roger Gibson and I struggling in 2005 with complex application forms to the now defunct Film Council for a major grant to install digital projection. In the event, it went to the local multiplex, a pattern repeated across the country. There were real positives though. We hired people like Ellen Cheshire and then Walter Francisco as General Manager. Our financial sustainability was secured, facilities improved and the films Roger programmed got better and better. Above all, there was pride and passion and fun. Through it all, Roger didn’t age a nanosecond from the time I first went to an evening class on film that he ran at the old Chichester College in the early 1970s with its whirring, clanking projector and mandatory essays. And the looks of patient exasperation on Roger’s face as we dutifully read out our ill-considered judgements to the rest of the class.
I left the Board in 2006 to go to Ecuador but in 2019 many things- like the seductiveness of watching films in the dark with other people or the quirky charm of that old school many of us regard as a kind of second home- have an appeal that’s simply timeless.
Long may that continue!
Rod Fennell, past chair of Chichester Cinema at New Park, recalls a leaner, hands-on time. ‘Melinda (Henry’s predecessor) used to write the seat numbers on the tickets by hand’
Twenty years ago the Cinema was emerging from its teenage years. Many of today’s patrons would still recognise hallmark features like the quality programme of films from around the world (curated then exclusively by Roger Gibson), an annual Film Festival, a welcoming and friendly environment, Mark and Jim in the projection box and support from a strong and enthusiastic volunteer base.
Much, however, was very different:
• The Cinema had by then been at the New Park Centre for several years but it was by no means certain then that it would survive local authority plans to redevelop the whole area to the north of St. Pancras.
• The last of Chichester’s large commercial single screen cinemas had closed and the new Multiplex had not yet been built.
• No DVD or satellite projection in those days, so films were delivered in the middle of the night and needed to be assembled by the projectionists before display.
• The number of customers (although expanding rapidly) was almost half the current usage.
• The box office was basically a cupboard with a window where Melinda (Henry’s predecessor) used to write the seat numbers on the tickets by hand.
• The auditorium was shared with an amateur dramatic group who had primacy of use.
• The seats in the auditorium were second-hand and not that comfortable.
• There was no certainty that either the small bar or the refreshment counter (a separate facility in those days) would be open.
• The Cinema finances were a perennial problem and, in particular, covering the costs of the annual Film Festival was a real challenge.
• Sponsorship from individuals and local companies like Anita Roddick, who funded the film festival for many years, and Seaward Developments who continue to give support, was vital.
• There was no added benefit in those days, either culturally or financially, from “Live Performance” broadcasts.
• Walter’s post of General Manager had not yet been created and much of the day-to-day management was done on a voluntary basis by the Committee.
• Adequate advertising and an educational programme were yet to be developed.
The New Millennium was to see important changes:
o Perhaps most significantly the Centre, the Cinema and their many patrons were successful in convincing the District Council to support the expansion and consolidation of all the facilities at the New Park Centre.
o Audience numbers continued to grow and the Cinema reacted by installing its first automated ticketing system, expanding the front-of-house facilities, renovating the bar, installing upgraded seating and improvements to the projection and sound systems.
More significant changes were to follow promoted by subsequent chairmen. Perhaps most important was the establishment of the Cinema as a limited charitable company with an expanded staff structure. This has enabled it to become the professional organisation it is today – an invaluable and much-loved part of Chichester’s cultural offering.
It was my privilege to have been a small part of the Cinema’s history. I wish the Cinema every success as it moves forward and responds to new initiatives and challenges.
Rod Fennell (Chairman 1998-2005)
Ellen Cheshire, past manager, recalls the lure of Chichester Cinema at New Park in 2001
In 2001 I moved from London, where my local had been East Finchley’s Phoenix Cinema, to Bognor Regis. Bognor was well-served for blockbusters with the delightful Picturedrome, but I found myself popping in to New Park for my art film fix after a long-day at Chichester College teaching A Level Film Studies. This turned to ‘volunteering’ as a member of newly formed Marketing sub-committee then to General Manager when the Cinema advertised for a part-tome one.
I arrived in March 2003, the same month the Chichester Cineworld opened. After 23 years, New Park had competition, and so I stepped up the marketing and publicity of the Cinema’s year-round programme and Film Festival, and established the Focus on Film education programme of one-off talks, courses and study days, plus other community engagement activities. These last two elements were incredibility important when applying for grants from Trusts and Foundations, the highlight of which was an £87,000 grant from the UK Film Council, which represented over 20% of their grant total and more than double any other cinema in the country and which was match-funded by Chichester District Council.
I also ran regular fundraising events (screenings, film and food events, auctions etc), business sponsorship (both financial and in-kind) and merged the Cinema’s membership and Friends schemes and appealed to the Friends/individual donors for both financial and operational support. (Thank you all who supported in one way or another). But perhaps my most lasting legacy was hiring Walter Francisco as Box Office Manager in August 2003, who took over as the General Manager in 2005.
Since leaving the cinema Ellen Cheshire worked for Film Hub South East and is a Film Tutor at the University of Sussex International Study Centre. She gives talks on film across the country, and has written books on Cinemagoing and Filmmaking in Worthing and Shoreham; on Jane Campion, the Coen Brothers. Ang Lee and contributed to books on James Bond and UK Counterculture. Contributed author to the WJEC A Level Film Text Book (2018).